One of the main things that I have learned about talking to elder parents is to treat them as you would anyone else. Ask general questions to start conversations. Be open about what you want to know. If you were talking to your best friend, you would not sugar coat anything you wanted to know. Just remember that their answers need to be accepted. They may tell you the truth and just remember that the truth is not always about you or protecting your feelings. These truths may help you tremendously in your future and your children‘s futures. Especially the health questions.

When you reach midlife and approach the many changes physically, emotionally and mentally that await you, you’ll be very happy that you spent time divulging information about the generations before you. It will help you and your health support system formulate appropriate tests and programs that allow you a continued healthy result in your own life.

If a parent has a terminal illness, ask them what it is like to experience it. Let them know that you’re not sure how to respond and you don’t want to upset them but you are very willing to listen if they need a loving ear. You don’t have to know anything about the illness but understand they may be as frightened as you are and that definitely is common ground for a more open relationship. Most people are scared of the unknown and having support, love and someone to share their feelings with is a major contribution. Remember to ask if any other family member experienced the same thing. One suggestion is to let them know that you are not going away and you will help anyway you can and that you are not there to take over their lives. Utilize eldercare, assisted living or even home health aides to keep your relationship more social and familiar. Taking over puts way to much stress on everyone and can ultimately destroy that personal family life needed so much when they are older.

Jog their memories to give you any descriptions of former family members in regards to personalities, health issues, family life and antidotes. There are many books sold now on questions to answer for children, grandchildren and so on. If stuck, always resort back to the good old “Who, What. When, Where and How” of their youth, parents and extended families.

If they are over 75, ask them what it feels like to be their age. Take the “mommy-daddy” out of the conversation and treat them as a human being that needs to express themselves. Truly you will open a door to a new and highly beneficial relationship. Trust me, when they look in the mirror they don’t recognize the reflection either. How they think and feel is not what they see. They remember all the good times and that flexible person without any ailments or physical aging. Everyone wishes they could find a way to stop the aging clock of life. Eventually, we all will!

Author's Bio: 

Marge Pickering-Picone is a Nutrition Consultant for Professional Nutrition Services of Rochester, Inc. and the Founder of which is a website for the Baby Boomer to find reliable information for facing the changes that are fast approaching.